Snapchat Wisdom of College Ministry Do's and Don'ts

Blog Header New 2017 July large logo40 transparency x 1140Snapchat Wisdom on College Ministry Do’s and Don’ts, Facebook, August 11, 14

Eric Turner

Guest Post by Podcast Seminary friend, Dr. Eric Turner

See Eric’s bio on his website
See Eric’s Original Post

No, this is not a post about how to use Snapchat (or any other social media) for growing a college ministry.
Let me explain.
I had this crazy idea recently to flood all of the college students I know on Snapchat with an informal research question. For those who do not know, I have served as a college/singles pastor at Lenexa Baptist Church in Kansas City and I am currently a New Testament faculty member at Hannibal-LaGrange University. My point is, I know a lot of college students and I am always looking for wisdom on how better to engage in effective ministry towards them.
For the record, the number of students may not be statistically significant, but at least it was enough to arrive at some interesting conclusions. So, if you are currently doing college ministry or are pondering how to begin a college ministry, you may find what I am about to share helpful, or at least, insightful. Now, here is the Snapchat question I asked,
“What is one Do and one Don’t of College Ministry?”
I received a variety of response. Allow me to list a few of them for you and then I will draw together some observations/principles for those of us who seek to faithfully minister to this unique generation. Here is a sampling of what they said…

  • Do not expect an immediate response when starting your college ministry.
  • Form friendships with college students with the intent of sharing the gospel.
  • Do not dumb down the gospel.
  • Know your audience.
  • Do not isolate your students from the larger body of believers.
  • Open up your life to your students.
  • Do life with them.
  • Keep your ministry “missional,” get it outside the four walls of the church.
  • Be careful in choosing your leadership.
  • Stay relevant.
  • Use challenging material that will make them dig deep.
  • Do not have too much structure; the ministry should have an organic feel.
  • Teach theology to college students.

  • From these and from my experience in college ministry, here are a few observations/principles that may help you get on the right track.

    1. The size of your college ministry is not as important as you think it is.
    Very little was said about students wanting to be part of a large college ministry. What was noteworthy is that students appear to value substance over sheer numbers. Unfortunately, in the past and from a pastor’s perspective, we have used numbers to gauge success. From the perspective of students, this conversation is not on their radar. Therefore, you would do well as a college minister to not base your worth on the size of your group. Churches, I exhort you, stop playing the numbers game with your leaders.
    2. College students do not want shallow teaching, they long for depth.
    Over and over again, from a majority of the students polled, I heard that depth of teaching was a major factor in whether they were attracted to or stayed connected to a college ministry. One student sent me this response,
    I once had a Bible study on campus with students through Romans. You would not believe how hungry they were for depth. They had been given Sunday School answers all their life. Students love being part of meaningful conversations. I had one student so shocked that the Jews rejected Jesus, she slammed her fists on the table and yelled, “We need to tell them!”
    In other words, put away the games you played in youth group and start digging deep into Jesus.
    3. Relationships are more important than structure in college ministry.
    Often, we begin with the opposite strategy. We are taught to develop the structure (what we do) and then, when we attract students, the focus shifts to building relationships (who we are). Almost every student responded with something about the importance of relationships. None of them were concerned at all with the format of the ministry. As a caveat, this is not to say that you have zero structure, throwing caution to the wind as you drink coffee with your students in a casual atmosphere. What I am noting is the priority you place on building relationships. In other words, focus more on who you are rather than what you do. As one student boldly declared, build a relationship with me before you lecture me.

    4. College students need engagement with the wider body of Christ, not isolation.

    Here is a secret worth its ministry weight in gold. College students want to serve in your church. Give them leadership opportunities, however, as one student rightly said, do not allow students to serve if they are living a life of unrepentant sin. Connect students with married couples, senior adults, and above all, find places for them to serve out of the gifts they possess. Just because they are college students does not mean that they share in less of a portion of the Holy Spirit.
    5. Patience is a must as you seek to disciple college students.
    One of the first “snaps” that I received back read, do not get discouraged when students seem to be living double lives, continue pouring into them. Another remarked, do not make decisions for your students when they come to you for advice. Help them make their own decisions. I have discovered that ministry to college students is often messy, but you know, so is ministry to any other age group. It takes a calm, wise, and patient leader to help guide students into Christ-likeness.
    6. You have to be willing to open your life before college students.
    I would note, if you are going to do effective, long-term ministry to college students, this principle is non-negotiable. They want to have fun with you as a leader, but they do not want you to act like a college student. They crave examples that they can follow and imitate. They want encouragement, but they value transparency the most. One student wisely said, be willing to just hang out with me – but remember, it doesn’t always have to be about coffee. Some of our deepest relationships have been and continue to be built as open our home and our lives (for better or for worse) to college students.
    7. Food, food, food…
    It may seem simplistic, but if you feed them, they will come. One of the replies was telling as it got right to the point; food – it is hard to hear over a grumbling stomach. Remember this well and get this next sentence embedded in your strategy. A home-cooked meal may be the lifeline that a college student is longing for, especially if they eat off of a meal plan in their campus cafeteria, but even more importantly, if they are struggling with homesickness and afraid to tell someone. For many, this is the first time they have been separated from family. Your family could become their family.
    Again, this post is a somewhat unscientific assessment on the best practices and common pitfalls of college ministry, the do’s and don’ts. But, I believe what is important to consider is that these principles are drawn from college students themselves. So, if you are doing college ministry or thinking of starting one, heed this practical wisdom. I truly believe that the generation that is in college right now is poised to do significant kingdom work. My prayer is that we see incredible gospel results as we faithfully minister to them.

    About Eric

    Adopted from the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home in St. Louis, Eric Turner is a Hannibal, Missouri native who recently joined the faculty at Hannibal-LaGrange University. Before accepting the position as Assistant Professor of New Testament and Greek in 2014, Eric served as Interim Pastor at Liberty Baptist Church in Liberty, MO, Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Braymer, MO and College/Singles Pastor at Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, KS.
    Dr. Turner currently holds a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies – New Testament Emphasis from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. His dissertation research focused on identifying and interpreting linguistic metaphor in Second Corinthians. The ultimate goal of the research was to show that a modern linguistic model for English metaphor can be applied to the Greek New Testament with profitable outcomes for the interpretation of historically difficult passages.
    Outside the classroom, Dr. Turner can be found running, playing guitar, riding motorcycles, or traveling. He has been married to his wife Stephanie for 23 years and together they have four children. He and his family are avid St. Louis Cardinals fans.

    Contact Dr. Eric Turner

    40 transparency x 1140

What Does the Bible Say About "Youth Ministry?"

A Young Billy Graham

What Does the Bible Say About Youth Ministry?

The Bible doesn’t address “youth ministry.” Youth Ministry is a phenomenon of the 20th Century, though an important one.
The word “adolescent” wasn’t coined until about 1942. At least three major historical movements led “Youth Ministry” as we know it.

1) The Industrial Revolution and Challenging Economic Times for Families Led Children Into the Work Force Where they Faced Adult Situations and Adult Temptations.

Times were tough in the 1800s and 1900s. People were scratching a living in order to survive, and this often led to the need for children to work on their farms and in their homes. Then, as the Industrial Revolution occurred, it offered more jobs and the opportunity for making money and upward mobility. Lots of children entered the work force.
Keep in mind that most kids at this time had little education and few educational opportunities. Plus ‘public school’ as we now know it didn’t exist in most places. So kids got very little education on average, unless they were wealthy.
Portrait of a child laborer standing between a spinning loom and a window at a cotton mill.  The young girl wears tattered work clothes. North America 1909
Portrait of a child laborer standing between a spinning loom and a window at a cotton mill. The young girl wears tattered work clothes.
North America
The lack of child labor laws and the sheer need for income led to many kids moving into the workplace.
As these kids were exposed to adults, they were exposed to adult situations. This forced them to grow up quickly.
It also led to lots of stress and the opportunity to make mistakes. This led to an enormous upswing in lifestyle issues, moral problems, and challenges with working young people. There became a growing conviction that there was a problem and that something needed done.

2) More Educational Opportunities For Young People Delayed Their Move Into Full Adult Society and Its Responsibilities.

Even though children grew up and matured into adults throughout history, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution and on into the Early 20th Century that there rose a need for more highly-trained people to serve in larger companies as managers. This led to more and more people making the decision to pursue formal education in hopes of even higher paying jobs as, because, for the first time in U.S. history, a “Middle Class” was rising.
Prior to more people going to college, there were simply the “haves” and “have nots.” But the opportunities and needs resulting from the Industrial Revolution led to more production and the growth of industry, resulting in large businesses. These large businesses required middle-management positions. All this led to higher tiers of income and entirely new working classes, from Blue Collar, to Gray Collar, and White Collar.
But getting an education took time. So more and more children began delaying entering the workforce as kids and continued though grade school and high school, with some also entering college. In addition, because corporations had been abusing child laborers for decades, laws began keeping children from working as much. As as result, they were not intermingling as much with grown adults and being forced to “grow up.”
In 1925, the release of public tax funds (US v. School District No. 1 of Kalamazoo, MI) allowed more children to get education, because it was now being offered for everyone and paid for by U.S. taxpayers.
Before long, school attendance became ‘compulsory.’ When that happened, kids were systematically delayed from entering adult life and the work force until later.
The outcome of that was young people entered a period where they did not move from “childhood” into “adulthood” quite so rapidly. This leisure and time to grow up more slowly without adult responsibilities soon resulted in a sociological phenomenon called “adolescence.”

3) Delayed Adulthood (for those not going into the work force and spending more time in school) Resulted in Young People Having More Identity Crises and Moral Challenges.

Because more and more children were not moving directly into adult life with adult responsibilities (full work weeks, job responsibilities, hard labor, early marriages, and having children while still in their teens), they had time to develop and mature.
But because they didn’t yet have ‘careers’ and were increasingly going away from family-based trades they had done for generations, more began to struggle with their identities: “Who am I?” “What am I going to do?” “Where will I live?” “Will I make it?” These identity crises led to stress and struggle. Also, with teenagers with adult bodies and adult urges but child-like responsibilities and delayed adulthood, this increasingly became a time of moral struggles, experimentation, and often ‘excess.’
As kids were sometimes able to have childhood responsibilities (not work) but adult freedoms (living on their parents’ money while they went to school), this responsibility-freedom imbalance began to cause problems. Young people and early adults were increasingly struggling with behavioral issues, sexual struggles, alcohol problems, and more.

Enter Youth Ministry

All this led to organizations coming into existence to help young people.
From the Society of Christian Endeavor to other Temperance Societies, to the Boys Clubs and Girls Clubs, to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the YMCA and YWCA, Sunday Schools, Singing Schools, and denominational camps and recreation ministries, there was a growing specialization in ministering to young people.
So “ministries to youth” became ‘a thing’ and grew rapidly. By the early 1900s, educational institutions recognized the need to help equip youth workers, so academic programs started developing to train them. That led to a growth of literature in this area.
With academic degrees, a growing literature base, and more and more jobs in the field… “Youth Ministry” as a profession was born. This began to really happen in the 1920s, and it soon exploded in the 1940s-50s-60s-70s and beyond.


Research Topics: Finding Yours in 6 Steps

research topics- choosing yours in 6 easy steps

Research Topics: Finding Yours in 6 Steps

 by Timothy Howe

All academics do research. Finding research topics is a part of the job. If you are in academia you will need to research. Whether you are working on a research paper, thesis, dissertation, field project, or a new book, you will need to research. Many times research topics come easily. They are dictated by someone else, by pressing circumstances or are a particular passion. However, almost every writer comes to a point in his or her career when he or she is required to write without a lead. The writer knows that something must be written, but what?

Six Steps to Choosing Your Research Topics
1. Work in an area of personal interest.
You will not want to research a topic that is dull to you. The larger the project, the more personal investment will be required to stay the course. So, from the beginning investigate topics that interest you. It is also likely to be the area where you already have some expertise.

2. Consider if your interest matters.
Just because you like a topic does not mean it is either important or interesting to others. Since writers presumably research in order to be read, consider if your interest matters. If it does not, select a new one. If it does, your are on the right track.

3. Identify what research already exists in your field of interest.
You do not want to expend a great deal of research effort only to find out that someone else has written your paper. Identity what topics are sufficiently covered and what topics have questions yet unanswered or conclusions yet unchallenged.

4. Brainstorm various possibilities.
Before researching, sit down and come up with as many ideas as you can concerning your interest. Among other things, brainstorming benefits you by leading you to something you never before considered, helping to establish the outline for when you begin writing, and by producing many future topics.

5. Narrow your topic to a manageable size.
It does no good to choose a topic of gargantuan scale. You must narrow your topic as soon as possible to a size that is appropriate for your project. Research papers must be very narrow in focus; theses, dissertations and books can be a bit broader, but be careful to not let them grow unwieldy.

6. Choose your topic. 
Sometimes the enemy is not the lack of a topic, but it is that you cannot decide between equally compelling topics. There comes a time when you must simply choose. Choose your topic and begin your research. Put your remaining other good topic ideas in your mental vault for future research.
Finally, once you have chosen your topic, start writing. 

Relationships Among Research Methods and Paradigms

Research methods and Paradigms

Relationships Among Research Methods and Paradigms

by Dr. Sharon Short
During the past several decades, considerable debate has raged between those who favor empirical (generally termed “quantitative”) research and those who prefer interpretive (generally referred to as “qualitative”) inquiry. Those who draw the lines most dogmatically argue that, since these research methods and paradigms are based on fundamentally conflicting views about the nature of reality, the researcher must commit to the one approach that corresponds to his or her philosophical position. One cannot endorse both paradigms because they represent reality in essentially contradictory ways and are therefore incompatible and mutually exclusive.
Several thoughtful scholars, however, have argued for complementarity among research paradigms rather than exclusivity (Eisner, 1981; Salomon, 1991; Soltis, 1984). As I struggled with these issues in the preparation of my dissertation proposal, I eventually concluded that those who claim that reality is either objective and external or socially constructed are claiming to much, and that it makes more sense to recognize some aspects of reality as objectively real and stable and other aspects of the same comprehensive reality as socially constructed. Salomon explains it in these words:

The very logic that underlies the acceptance of reality as social and research paradigms as human-made, admitting therefore a variety of these, ought also to accept the notion that no single paradigm or set of assumptions is necessarily superior to others….Rather, paradigms are ways to study selected aspects of the world, and thus their selection must be a function of that aspect chosen for study. (p. 15)

I think it is fair to say that reality is both stable and consistent (in general) and idiosyncratic and individualistic (in particular). This claim is much more true for the social sciences than for the physical sciences, and that may be the source of the trouble. Social scientists began by imitating the scientific methods of physical science, and these methods worked for them up to a point. But then there was so much more unexplained information than one would find in physical science, so much more variation and inconsistency, that some theorists rejected the paradigm entirely in favor of a different one, when in fact both of them could helpfully tell a part of the whole story.
Different aspects of education may appropriately be researched from each perspective. There is enough consistency, for example, in the way children develop cognitively, linguistically, and so on for general “laws” to be discovered, but there is also enough variation and individuality for research into specific cases to be important. More so than in the physical sciences, educational research needs to be approached from both ends of the spectrum if the reality under investigation is to be represented comprehensively. The correct paradigm, then, is the one that corresponds to the particular aspect of reality that is being examined.
Eisner, E. W. (1981). On the differences between scientific and artistic approaches to qualitative research. Educational Researcher, 10(4), 5-9.
Salomon. G. (1991). Transcending the qualitative-quantitative debate: The analytic and systemic approaches to educational research. Educational Researcher, 20(6), 10-18.
Soltis, J. F. (1984). On the nature of educational research. Educational Researcher, 13(10), 5-10.

Research Genres

Research Genres, image courtesy of US Army

Research Genres

by Dr. Sharon Short
I am delighted and grateful that I was able to conduct my dissertation study in an environment where qualitative research is respected. This is not always the case. One of the students in my program mentioned to a colleague that she was planning a qualitative study, to which this individual responded, “Oh, then it isn’t real research.” Recognition of ethnographies, life stories, case studies, and the like as “real” research is joyfully welcomed by students of the social sciences who know that numbers are incapable of telling all there is to know about a subject, concept, or phenomenon. Having said this, however, I can appreciate scholars within the hard sciences questioning the legitimacy of an approach to research that allows such an astonishing array of options.
Qualitative inquiry has become an umbrella category for a bewildering variety of research procedures and reporting forms. These variations of qualitative approaches are sometimes identified as research traditions or research genres, and as many as 45 different types have been cataloged. Naturally, some of these traditions have become more thoroughly developed than others and are more widely known and applied than others. According to Jacob (1987), each such tradition or genre “forms a coherent whole, comprising internally consistent assumptions about human nature and society, foci of study, and methodology” (p. 1), somewhat like sports games that each adhere to their own sets of rules.
Since there are so many different “games” to choose from within the qualitative paradigm, and since each one requires expertise in its own unique assumptions and practices in order to be employed effectively, scholars recommend that researchers (especially novice researchers) select one or at most two of these genres within which to become knowledgeable and proficient. Furthermore, they encourage adherence to one genre as a whole rather than selectively using elements from different ones, at least until one has become very experienced.
Therefore, the next decision after one has committed to a qualitative research paradigm is to determine the most appropriate research genre for one’s research question. I found the following resources particularly helpful in understanding and selecting the genre within which to conduct my study.  See the following sources for more insights!
Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Glesne, C., & Peshkin, A. (1992). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction. White Plains, NY: Longman.
Merriam, S. B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education (Rev. ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Jacob, E. (1987). Qualitative research traditions: A review. Review of Educational Research, 57(1), 1-50.
Piantanida, M., & Garman, N. B. (1999). The qualitative dissertation: A guide for students and faculty. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Line of Research

Line of Research

Line of Research

By Dr. Sharon Short
In the course of my doctoral studies, I observed a variety of attitudes toward their dissertations among professors, authors, and colleagues. One of my instructors, for example, commented that after she finally finished her dissertation she wanted to take it outside and bury it. The author of a book I read remarked that she wished the library copy of her dissertation could have been bound on all four sides. Some—perhaps many—doctoral graduates set their finished manuscripts on a shelf with a grateful sigh of relief and move on with their lives.
For others, however, dissertation studies produce a more profitable outcome: for these scholars, the monumental amount of work that they poured into literature reviews, investigations, and analyses endures in an ongoing journey of learning, writing, and teaching about their area of research. Another professor I know, for example, regularly uses data from her research in the master’s courses that she teaches, and she involves her students in collecting new data using the interview protocol that she designed for her investigation. Similarly, the instructor of my qualitative research methods class described how she continued to build on the research that began with her dissertation. This professor encouraged us to establish a “line of research” based on our dissertation work to which we intended to continue contributing all our lives.
A great deal depends, of course, upon what subject one chooses to research. I am blessed to still be fascinated by the topic of my research, and to still enjoy working with this subject matter. My dissertation has already provided me with meaningful content to present in the form of papers at two different conferences, in addition to a research report already published in a journal and a chapter in a newly-published book. I look forward to developing and extending my findings into a book that will benefit a larger audience than the small sphere of scholars who currently have access to it.
Not that the journey so far has been completely straightforward and linear! The dissertation topic that I finally investigated was my third attempt. I entered my Ph.D. program with one research issue in mind, which I continued to pursue for most of the first year. In my second year I jettisoned that idea completely and took off in another direction, for which I wrote a 75-page dissertation proposal before concluding that that topic was not tenable either. The third try, finally, had that proverbial “charm” that has kept me engaged and intrigued ever since.
In short, doctoral student, follow your heart, keep looking for something that excites you for the long haul, and don’t be afraid to change direction if necessary. Certainly it is important to get that dissertation done, but it is even better if its completion inaugurates a lifetime of fruitful scholarship.

Social Science and Scripture (Part II)

Social Science and Scripture. Featuring image:Money Ball by Wolfgang

Social Science and Scripture (Part II)

by Steve Huerd
Missed Part 1 of the Series? Read it here.
Integration begins with the notion of reconciling all things together in Christ.  In the world today, there seem to be separate things which either do not relate together or compete with one another in their truth claims.  For example, is homosexuality a learned behavior or a genetic issue?  What is the best form of government?  How should we as a country prepare for retirement in the future?  Just read the latest headlines and you will come up with many issues demanding immediate answers.  These myriads of issues requiring integration for the Christ-follower can be personal, corporate, or even conceptual in nature.
Central to the concept of integration is the notion of unity in all things since Christ is king over all the created order.  For example, in Col. 1:16, Paul says of Christ that, “all things were made by him, for him, and through him.”  This truth obviously implies that all things must necessarily then relate to Christ in meaningful ways since he created them, empowered them, and was the purpose for their existence.  We also know from this passage that all things will be eventually reconciled to Christ (Col. 1:20), or brought back into their proper perspective in relation to him.  The later verse also seems to imply that now, in the present, everything is not reconciled to Christ, being perhaps the reason we experience difficulties in reconciling them together in our minds.  In C.S. Lewis’s fictional series, the Chronicles of Narnia, “Aslan” has not yet appeared to unfreeze the winter covering the earth.
Thus we press on continually trying to see the connections and disconnections between the findings of social science, or any other truth claim for that matter, and that of scripture.  If we hold to the view of the scriptures being the primary and foundational source of truth, then other truth claims must be evaluated and carefully analyzed by what we know is true in the pages of the Bible and the mind of God.
The honest Christ-follower then must perpetually do what Duane Litfin, the former president of Wheaton College suggests, “The Christian’s intellectual task is to use his or her God-given apprehension and correlation to discover truth about God and truth about the spiritual, moral, and material dimensions of the world he created” (Litfin, 2004, p. 173).
Consequently, if we are to “know the truth” as the “truth will set us free” (John 8:32), then this task takes on greater significance as it affects not just our salvation but how we live here on earth.  If all truth is unified coming from the mind of God where there is no confusion, then regardless of the source, all that is truthful should cohere and fit together with whatever else is truthful.  This logically implies that truth discovered via social science should cohere with truth being revealed by God in the scriptures wherever possible.  And, correspondingly, wherever truth seems to contradict or not fit with scriptures, we need to proceed with caution.
While the masses may follow the crowd, we as Christian educators and scholars should be most thoughtful in how we put things together in our thinking.  We need to lead the church and this next generation through our careful scrutiny of today’s truth claims for “all who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly” (Prov. 16:13 NIV).
Litfin, D. (2004).  Conceiving the Christian college: A college president share his vision of Christian higher education.  Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Social Science and Scripture (Part 1)

Social Science and Scripture. Featuring image:Money Ball by Wolfgang

Social Science and Scripture (Part 1)

by Steve Huerd
Brad Pitt played the entrepreneurial Oakland A’s baseball manager Billy Bean in the film Moneyball in which he goes against conventional wisdom by following the advice of a statistician in changing his team.  Though the film was nominated for six academy awards including best actor and best picture, it raises interesting questions we must address in Christian Education.
For example, how do we really know what is true?  This is not a new question per se, as the study of epistemology in philosophy directly studies these phenomena.  But, it does pose continual questions as we in academia seek to lead and influence the new generation in discovering truth.
For centuries the church based its epistemology upon revelation or the idea that truth was directly given to us by God through the writing of the Holy Scriptures.  However with the rise of the Enlightenment period, man’s reason gradually grew to occupy a more central place in the search for truth.  This led to the rise of science, which while being originally created to study God’s universe, eventually became an alternative means of discovering truth in the world.  Francis Schaeffer (1976), in his classic book How Should We Then Live, traces this independent and autonomous thinking back to the Renaissance period, placing man in the center of the universe.
Today, centuries later, science and the scientific method of investigation have largely supplanted revelation in the secular world as the chief means of discovering truth and knowledge.  Revelation as a means of epistemic knowing has been subjugated to the realm of person opinion or even superstition as there is no way to empirically verify its findings through experimentation.
Thus, when it comes to doing research in the social sciences of academia, empiricism and the scientific method rule.  You can’t really say anything unless you can support it with empirical evidence.

Those of us in Christian education, who still hold to God’s revelation through scripture as a means of knowing, must constantly wrestle at the task of integration.  We maintain that all truth is God’s truth whether it is found in nature through general revelation (i.e. empirical research) or in special revelation (i.e. the Bible).  If we have as our premise the knowledge that “all truth is one and all ways to truth are one because the Author and End of truth is One” (Green, 2007, p. 63), then integration becomes an essential task we must engage with great care.
And, like Billy Bean of the Oakland A’s, we face constant temptations to ignore conventional wisdom in favor of a more scientific approach.  Even in the writing of my dissertation, I confess to spending far more time reading and summarizing empirical research than I did in writing about how the scriptures interact with my topic.  Yet, if we truly believe that God has revealed truth in the Bible to us, than this truth must have supremacy over human reason being argued through statistically based empirical research.
Integrating truth discovered through empirical research with truth being revealed via scripture is no easy task.  The scriptures will always hold epistemic supremacy for me in my thinking, but anyone who has ever read the Bible knows that the Bible doesn’t speak about every little truth God has created.  For while God has given us everything we need for a life of godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), there remains much more truth to be discovered in the universe.  Social science and scripture need not conflict and it’s not always one or the other, nevertheless we in Christian education need to be prepared so that we don’t lose our way in the midst of the fog in our search for truth.
Schaeffer, F. A. (1976).  How should we then live? The rise and decline of western thought and culture.  Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company.
Green, B. (2007).  Ch. 3: “Theological and Philosophical Foundations,” in Shaping a Christian worldview: The foundations of Christian higher education, ed. David Dockery and Gregory Thornbury.  Broadman & Holman.

Qualitative Research Sampling

Qualitative Research

Qualitative Research Sampling

By Sharon Warkentin Short
To me, one of the most intriguing aspects of qualitative research is the selection of the sample with whom to conduct the study. In contrast to the probability or random sampling that is standard for quantitative investigations, qualitative researchers generally rely on “nonprobabilistic” (Merriam, 1998) or nonrandom sampling to determine their research participants. That is to say, rather than selecting individuals or groups in such a way that each member of the population under study has an equal chance of being chosen, qualitative inquirers deliberately seek out respondents who have the most to contribute: “the goal is to select cases that are likely to be ‘information-rich’ with respect to the purposes of the study” (Gall et al., 2003, p. 165). This selection approach has sometimes been labeled “purposive” or “purposeful sampling” (Merriam, 1998).
An instructive way to think about purposeful sampling is to view such participants as panels of experts in a specific area (Maxwell, 2005), comparable to medical specialists who are consulted regarding a difficult case. In that situation, the goal is not to get an average opinion from an entire population of doctors, but rather to hear what these particularly qualified people have to say (Merriam, 1998). At least fifteen different varieties of purposeful samples have been identified (Gall et al., 2003).
For my research I decided that an intensity sample was the best choice. Described as “cases that manifest the phenomenon of interest intensely but not extremely” (Gall et al., 2003, p. 178), such informants can be expected to provide ample useful data without seeming so rare or exceptional that subsequent readers of the research might feel the study has nothing relevant to say to them.
When I was first exposed to the whole area of nonrandom research sampling, I was very skeptical, because it sounded so contradictory to the tenets of objective, scientific research. However, it was the analogy of the panel of medical experts that convinced me. I realized that, for my study, I was not trying to discover what “average” children, or children in general, thought about Bible stories; I wanted to watch closely how one particular group of children in one Sunday school responded to the stories. The sample that I eventually studied constituted an intensity sample in that their church was field-testing a new children’s curriculum organized around the metanarrative of the Bible. This meant that the teaching materials were explicitly focused on Bible stories, and the volunteers and staff were committed to using the materials as effectively as possible. In this program they were more involved with the Bible stories than a typical Sunday school class might have been, but their involvement was not out of reach for most churches.
Gall, M. D., Gall, J. P., & Borg, W. R. (2003). Educational research: An introduction (7th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (2nd ed.). Vol. 41. Applied Social Research Methods Series. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Merriam, S. B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education (Rev. ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

The Researcher as "Instrument"

Courtesy Garnet on Flickr at
Courtesy Garnet on Flickr

The Researcher as “Instrument”

By Dr. Sharon Warkentin Short
In the world of qualitative investigation, a great deal of conventional wisdom about what constitutes scientific research is turned on its head. As explained in a previous post, for example, the concept of a representative random sample simply does not apply. Instead, the sample is purposefully selected according to specified criteria for what these participants might be able to contribute. Another surprise for me as I learned more about qualitative research was that there is nothing “objective” about the role of the researcher.
In quantitative research, the person conducting the study tries to stay out of the way as much as possible. The goal is for the researcher to hold to an absolute minimum the effect that he or she might have on the data collection. A key standard for the strength of such research is that another individual, following precisely the same research design, would come up with exactly the same results.
By contrast, one of the distinguishing features of all qualitative inquiry is the recognition that the researcher is the primary data collection instrument. “Data are mediated through this human instrument, the researcher, rather than through some inanimate inventory, questionnaire, or computer” (Merriam, 1998, p. 7). In this capacity, “the researcher enters the lives of the participants” (Marshall & Rossman, 2006, p. 72), and this essential relationship introduces dynamics that are distinctive to interpretive research.
Dynamics of Interpretive Research
On the one hand, human data collection instruments can be acutely sensitive and responsive to specific research contexts:

He or she can adapt techniques to the circumstances; the total context can be considered; what is known about the situation can be expanded through sensitivity to nonverbal aspects; the researcher can process data immediately, can clarify and summarize as the study evolves, and can explore anomalous responses. (Merriam, 1998, p. 7)”

On the other hand, a host of interpersonal issues involving trust, respect, intimacy, and reciprocity enter in, which are not significant factors in quantitative research where the investigator can remain detached or completely anonymous from the respondents. My study design from beginning to end had to take into account my personal relationships not only with the children whom I was observing, but also with their parents and the volunteers and staff people who led the program. Unless these relationships were positive, respectful, supportive, cooperative, and appreciative, there could be no research. Therefore, to be granted such a role is a tremendous privilege and a great responsibility.
Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (2006). Designing qualitative research (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Merriam, S. B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education (Rev. ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.